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Equifax apologizes again for massive data breach; executives won't get their 2017 bonuses

By: The Washington Post
November 10, 2017 Updated: November 10, 2017 at 11:30 am
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Paulino do Rego Barros, Jr., left, interim Chief Executive Officer of Equifax, Inc., sitting with Richard Smith, center, former Chief Executive Officer of Equifax, Inc., and former Yahoo! Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, right, speaks as he testifies before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, during a hearing on "Protecting Consumers in the Era of Major Data Breaches" after the 2013 data breach at Yahoo! that affected 3 billion user accounts. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Equifax apologized again for its massive data breach in a Friday morning earnings call but also touted plans to build a new credit monitoring tool to give consumers more control over their data.

Chief executive Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. outlined plans to rebuild trust after saying that Equifax's senior leadership team will forgo "incentive compensation" - essentially, bonuses - for 2017.

He added that Equifax will release a free tool to allow anyone to lock their account to prevent others from viewing credit data or opening accounts in their name. (A credit lock, however, affords users fewer legal rights than a credit freeze, even in the event of a hack.) That tool is set to launch at the end of January.

He added that Equifax is working with other companies to create something similar for the whole industry. "We believe the time is right for an industry-wide solution that provides consumers a way to substantially improve visibility and control to personal credit data for free, for life," he said.

Equifax currently has a credit monitoring service that it's offering free to all 145.5 million consumers affected by the breach; registration remains open through Jan. 31. The service allows users to monitor and even freeze their accounts. The firm's chief financial officer, John W. Gamble Jr., said during the earnings call that approximately 1.5 percent to 2 percent of all Equifax files now have a lock or freeze placed on them.

Overall, Equifax has said that roughly 30 million people have visited the website it set up to inform consumers about the breach. But it has not reached out to individuals affected by the breach personally - leaving questions about how many people could still be unaware that their sensitive information was stolen, as Equifax tries to move on.

A recent survey from financial site CreditCards.com found that 71 million American adults hadn't heard anything about the breach more than a month after it was first announced, despite heavy news coverage.

Barros has declined to say whether Equifax will reach out to individuals by mail or email. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who helped introduce a consumer protection bill called the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation Act after the breach, sent a letter Thursday requesting that the credit bureau do so.

"It is deeply concerning that only slightly more than 20 percent of affected individuals have successfully used this tool, which you said you have been promoting heavily through social and other media," she said in the letter, which is posted publicly. "[It] remains quite possible that millions of individuals do not know for certain if their information was exposed."

Equifax shares were trading about 2 percent down from its opening price of $107.30 in midmorning trading.

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